From Parental Leave Benefits to Day Care Centers: SMA Takes Care of Its Families

Family planning, parental leave, day care: Ute Wiesner not only handles every aspect of our company’s family benefits, but also provides assistance to SMA parents and to anyone who is planning to become one. We recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk about the various benefits that SMA offers, as well as the kinds of things our colleagues should keep in mind when getting ready for their new baby.

Ute, how do you provide support to SMA colleagues who are about to become parents?

Well, the first thing we do is to offer our colleagues personal counseling and help them find a healthy balance between family and work. Many of them want to find out more in advance about things like parental leave and flexible working hours, both in terms of what the law stipulates and of what they can expect from the company. Even managers drop by to get more information. We also organize workshops that focus on parental leave on a regular basis, and anyone who is interested can attend together with their partner.

What happens during parental leave?

Right after they are born, we give a warm welcome to SMA babies with our Little Sunshine bib and give the happy parents a letter from the Managing Board congratulating them. After that, one of our priorities is to make sure that our colleagues are kept up to date on everything that’s going on at the company. To do this, we have a sponsor inform them of every important change and event and we send them our employee magazine by mail so that they can read it at home. And, of course, our colleagues are always more than welcome to attend all our SMA celebrations, as usual.

And what kind of help do you offer for colleagues who already have children?

We have a number of benefits available in that regard. Our day care options, for one. We work together with two day care centers in the close vicinity of our facilities, and have reserved a specific number of spots for our colleagues’ children. In addition, parents can take their kids to our holiday activities for kids during school holidays and use our emergency backup day care if they need to. And to help children adjust to day care, we also have the option of helping them gradually ease into it by taking it one step at a time and having their parents leave them for short amounts of time that increase until their children get used to the change. Also, anyone that wants to bring their kids to work is not only more than welcome to. They can also come and get a box of toys from us and get kids’ food for their little tykes at the cafeteria.
As for the parents themselves, we organize a get-together for parents once a month in order to help colleagues with children make contacts quickly. And last, but not least, we also have workshops that focus on important subjects, such as how to provide first aid to children in case of an emergency, which hopefully no one will ever have to do.

What kind of tips would you give to future parents in regard to their parental leave?

I always advise every single colleague that comes to us to make detailed plans concerning their parental leave. In other words, they should make sure to think about a number of things in advance, such as: How long do they want to be on parental leave? Do they want to be on full leave or do they want to work part-time? In addition, they should also think about when they want to come back and start working again and discuss that with their manager. Of course, that’s an awful lot to have on their plate, so we made a checklist to help them make sure that they aren’t forgetting anything.

That was incredibly helpful, Ute – thanks for your time.